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The inconsistency argument: why apparent pro-life inconsistency undermines opposition to induced abortion
  1. William Simkulet
  1. Philosophy, Park University, Parkville, Missouri, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr William Simkulet, Philosophy, Park University, Parkville, MO 67002, USA; Simkuletwm{at}


Most opposition to induced abortion turns on the belief that human fetuses are persons from conception. On this view, the moral status of the fetus alone requires those in a position to provide aid—gestational mothers—to make tremendous sacrifices to benefit the fetus. Recently, critics have argued that this pro-life position requires more than opposition to induced abortion. Pro-life theorists are relatively silent on the issues of spontaneous abortion, surplus in vitro fertilisation human embryos, and the suffering and death of born persons due to lack of access to food, shelter and medical care. Colgrove et al call such arguments inconsistency arguments, arguing they ‘do not matter’ and mischaracterise them as ad hominem attacks. Here, I argue these are better understood as moral dilemmas. While some critics argue pro-life inaction is evidence that they do not really believe human fetuses are persons, I contend this inaction is likely the result of resolvable confusion rather than moral negligence.

  • abortion
  • ethics
  • embryos and fetuses
  • in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer

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  • Contributors I am the sole contributor to this work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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  • Response
    Bruce Philip Blackshaw Nicholas Colgrove Daniel Rodger

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